(Boylove Documentary Sourcebook) - Soetjipto: A Young Javanese Man Living during the Late Colonial Period of Indonesia Recalls His First Love Affair

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The festive alun-alun in Sitoebondo on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina (1923). Java, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Leiden, Leiden University Libraries, Digital Collections, Southeast Asian & Caribbean Images (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies), KITLV 38973.

From "First Love: The Opening of Soetjipto's Djalan Sampoerna" by Benedict R. O'G. Anderson, in Indonesia, Vol. 82 (October 2006). Footnotes omitted.

Note 1: Soetjipto was thirteen years old at the time of his schoolboy romance, which lasted from September 7, 1923, to April 21 or 22, 1924.[1]

Note 2: An alun-alun is a large, central, open lawn square common to villages, towns and cities in Indonesia.[2]

My school in Situbondo was about two miles (pal) from my home in Pandji. The older of my two brothers attended a H.I.S., which actually wasn’t far from my own school. But he always went with his friends in a pony-cart (dokar), which they paid for monthly. That’s why he’d get up later than I.

On the way to school, I would almost always pass by the Alun-alun, as it was my habit as well as the shortest way. But when I reached Situbondo, it was still so early that I decided to take a different route, passing by the market and then turning left along a line of shops. The view was nice at that hour, since the shops were just beginning to open. Only then did I reach the Alun-alun, but on the southern side. I walked by the front of the Regent’s residence, intending to keep going past the railway station. But only a few steps after I passed the Regent’s residence, a young fellow suddenly stepped out of an alley. He looked to be about twenty years old, but was still in school, judging from the schoolbag that he, like me, was carrying.

The second our eyes met, my heart started to pound. I felt as if the blood was hissing (berdesir-desir) through my body. “Hey, why is your heart thudding like that?” I asked myself. Never in my life had it pounded so. And at that moment I lowered my head, puzzling over the beating of my heart.

All the while, his eyes never left my face. It is true he was a young man, but the sight of him would melt anyone’s heart, especially an adult’s. Even I, still a little boy, felt happy looking at his face and his expression. There is no point here singing the praises of his handsomeness, for it would have no meaning. Besides, it wasn’t just his looks that were so attractive, but also his manner.

“Why is he staring at me so long? Does he know me? No, it’s impossible. I’ve never met him even once.” So I kept on walking, and after I passed by him, he started follow along behind me.

Thinking it all over, I took out my penknife, pretending to cut my nails. But because it was so fated by the Almighty One (Maha Esa), a handkerchief that was in my pocket along with my penknife dropped to the ground. All of a sudden, the young man was at my side, with the handkerchief in his hand. “Little Brother, here’s your handkerchief,” he said, with a smile on his lips that made my heart feel giddy. Out of embarrassment, I took the handkerchief from him without saying a word. The minute he noticed my expression, he seized both my arms, turning me to face him. And once again my gaze met his. I started to lower my head. But before I was done, he took hold of my chin, so that once again he could see my face. When my eyes met his for the third time, my heart felt like glass shattered on a stone. For a long time we stared at one another. At first he looked at me with a face wreathed in smiles, but gradually his eyes filled with tears. Finally, he lowered his head. When I noticed this, I turned my head away. Nonetheless, at that moment my thoughts and memory were a blank.

Then just as I started to turn my body away from him, he pulled at my arms to face him once again.

“Where’s your school, Little Brother?” he asked. I just kept silent, because I felt more and more abashed that he asked about my school. Finally he lost patience with my long silence. “If I’m not mistaken, your school is right next to mine. Will you be my friend?”

As he spoke, he walked along slowly without ever letting go of my hand or taking his eyes off me. A little later, his hand moved up to my shoulder. Although I had not the least idea of what was on his mind, when I saw how gentle he was, my heart was filled with desire. As far as I could remember, I had never met anyone with a manner like his. The further we walked the closer he pulled my body to his. This made my passion grow stronger by the minute. So it was, till we parted at our schools.

That day, I could not pay attention in my classes. All I could think of was the meeting that had so shaken my heart. “Where does he come from? What is his name?” It was only natural, after all, that I didn’t know where he came from, since we had never met before. And besides, when we were walking together, I never learned his name, since the whole time his eyes were fixed on me as if they could never be satisfied.


In the Alun-alun a big crowd had already gathered to watch the performances. They were wearing their nicest clothes, in the local style. All kinds of shows were being staged, including pentjak, wajang kulit, wajang orang, saronan, and many more. In the residencies of the Assistant Resident, the Regent, the Patih, and other high officials there were celebrations as well. Coffee-stalls and vendors of food, cakes, and fruit were doing a roaring business. So the spectators could satisfy all their different desires to their hearts’ content. The players performed with extra beauty, and the high officials displayed their grandness.


I wandered about here and there as my heart fancied. By now I had circled the attractions several times. Gradually I started to feel tired. Besides, I had seen everything I wanted. Just after the clock struck ten, I decided to watch the wajang orang, with no interest in anything else. The performance was being held in the pendopo [traditional wall-less audience hall] in front of the town jail.


Suddenly there came a violent wind. All the vendors’ oil-lamps blew out, while the gas and electric lamps swung wildly to and fro, as if on a ship breasting gigantic waves. The food-stall vendors were in a tumult, trying to fend off the trouble that had befallen them. The spectators clutched their hats to their heads for fear they would be whirled away by the wind. The actors couldn’t go on comfortably with their performance in the face of the gale. In the homes of the high officials, it was just the same. Not long after the gale sprang up, it began to rain cats and dogs.


I had taken shelter in the pendopo where the wajang orang was playing. But because the pendopo was now jammed with people seeking shelter, the performance itself had eventually to be stopped. Once this happened, the place fell dark. I crouched by the edge of the pendopo where the gutter-pipe from the roof came down. It was now so crowded that I felt I couldn’t move my body at all. A little later the gale roared even more violently, and my whole body was soaked from head to toe by the in-blown rain. So I moved back, edging my way between people as I could. Because my body was so small, I managed this without trouble. However, before I could reach a good spot, I was forced suddenly to stop. In front of me stood someone lighting a match for a cigarette. Because I stood so close to him, it seemed that the light of the match illuminated my face. Once his cigarette was lit, I started to head off once again. But before I could move a step, I felt an arm around my shoulders.

“So you’ve been watching the show, Little Brother?”

I was completely taken aback, thinking that nobody there knew who I was. Because the fellow’s face was still obscured, I turned back and asked: “Who are you?”

“Your new friend,” he answered softly, pulling at my arm so that I couldn’t help coming close to him.

“I’m soaked. Don’t come close,” I said, the minute I felt my body almost touching his.

“It doesn’t matter,” he answered. “Come back with me to my house. There you can change into warm clothes. But be patient for a little while. The rain is still coming down cats and dogs.”

I didn’t utter a single word. My heart was moved as I listened to him invite me to his house. In my heart I said to myself: “How can I get home now? It’s already half past midnight. But if I sleep at his house? After all I barely know him, we met for the first time only this morning. He’ll surely think that I am not really a schoolboy, and don’t have any parents, since I have managed to watch the performance so far into the night.”

But in view of his courtesy, I hesitated. Would he really have such thoughts about me? I hadn’t yet finished thinking this over properly, when I heard him softly reciting this pantun into my ear:

Cordials are made from candle-nut
No thorns the corals wear
I sought him everywhere, and found him not
But now he has come near

“Hey, there are a lot of people around. Aren’t you ashamed to sing pantun here?”

“Of course, sweetheart (sajang). Otherwise I’d keep on singing,” he replied.

Gradually the rain eased up, till it only drizzled. Some of the people taking shelter in the pendopo hurried off, too impatient to wait any longer, and thinking all the time about their families. As I watched them scurrying off, one after the other, he said: “Come on, let’s go. My home isn’t that far. The rain is so light now that you won’t get really wet.”

“All right,” I said. “As you wish.”

Before I had a chance to get tired, we reached his home, located behind the Regent’s Residence. He opened the door and told me to go inside.

“No, I can’t,” I replied. “I’m scared your parents will wake up and be upset.”

“Don’t worry. Mother and Father have gone to Bondowoso, for a party at the home of one of our relatives. Come on in.”

I went in slowly and fearfully, because I had never done anything like this before. Right away he got out a singlet and a sarung, handed them to me, and told me to get changed.

“No, thank you,” I said feeling very embarrassed.

“You don’t need to talk that way,” he said, “after all, we’ve become friends.”

So my embarrassment began to lessen. I believed in the sincerity of his heart. When I had changed, he told me to lie down on the bench (bangkoe), which was fairly wide. It had pillows arranged on it too.

“Shall I put out the light or not?” he asked with a smile.

“Yes, it’s all right, put it out,” I answered.

Once the light was out, the house became pitch-black. Yet the bed itself was illuminated by the moonlight coming through the windowpane. After putting out the light, he drew close to me. “Are you happy sleeping here? What’s your name? Where do you live?” he asked, taking hold of my hair and caressing it over and over. His words immediately made me stop and think for a moment. Yes, he had every right to ask my name and where I lived, for he had become my friend. So I frankly told him my name and where I lived. As we lay there side by side, I felt my blood in turmoil, because my body was touching his.

“Have you been here a long time?” I asked.

“No. Just a couple of months. I used to live in Kediri. But when my father was transferred, I joined him here, to continue my schooling.”

“What grade are you in?”

“Grade seven,” he replied.

“Did you like it in Kediri?” I asked.

“Of course. I used to be a lot happier there than here. But now that I’ve met you, Little Brother, I feel happier here than there.” So he replied, turning his face toward me, and resting his thigh on mine.

At this my blood surged (berserai-serai) harder than ever. Gradually my desire was aroused, though I struggled as hard as I could to resist the feeling, thinking how ashamed I would be if he found me out. In my heart I was astonished that I could be so aroused, since up till now I had never had this feeling before, only the desire of a little boy. But now it was quite different, like the desire of a grown-up, even though actually at that time I was far from grown-up.

“Will you be my friend?” he asked, pulling my body into his arms. It was getting harder and harder to resist my feelings. In the ordinary way of things, sleeping next to a friend shouldn’t arouse any shame or desire. But now, for me, it wasn’t like that at all. I felt my chest ready to burst. And because his arms were around me I was very afraid that he would hear my breathing, which was heaving like the devil’s (seitan). So I turned my face and laid it on his chest. I could hear his heart beat and the short gasps of his breath.

“Why is he like this?” I thought to myself. I was sure that his desire was awakened. But why was I, too, aroused? Unmistakably, it was because his body was really amazing. Wherever I laid my hand, his skin felt so smooth and soft. Even though he was another boy, at whatever part of his body I looked my desire and passion grew stronger. Especially if I looked at his face. If I didn’t quickly lower my head, my desire would surely explode. I would surely lay my head by his. I longed to nibble at his lips and kiss them. His body was like silk to my touch. “Even this morning when I first met him, my heart was already pounding, as if something was beating inside my chest. All the more so now that I am in his arms. So it’s no surprise that now I have such passion and desire for him,” I said to myself.

While I was reflecting on all this, he tightened his embrace, to the point that my head on his chest began to hurt. In spite of that I hugged him tighter back.

Shortly thereafter, he said: “When I first met you, as I was coming out of the alley from my house, I was completely stunned by the beauty of your face. In class, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. And it was just the same after I got home. The minute the sun went down, I started hunting for you among the shows, but I couldn’t find you anywhere. I only ran into you when the rain started to fall. I thank God for the rain, which brought me such happiness. I’m sure it was the will of God: if it hadn’t rained, maybe I wouldn’t have found you. How miserable I would be if I hadn’t seen you tonight. For the past four days I never had the chance to look at your face, which I kept seeing in my mind’s eye.”

“Ah, don’t talk nonsense,” I said. “Why would you miss me so much? After all, I’m not a pretty girl.” These words simply came blurting out of my mouth. The truth is that, as I listened to him, my heart became bright. Up to that moment, I was afraid that only I was filled with longing. But now it was clear that our longings were intertwined.

At that moment he replied: “It’s not like that, Little Brother. I’m drawn to your face, which for me is more beautiful than any girl’s.”

“Have you ever slept with a girl?” I asked.

“Not even once,” he replied with a smile. After a while, he went on: “Listen, I want to tell you something. Now you’ve become my special friend, you don’t need to feel ashamed. Some years ago, when I was still in Kediri, and your age, someone fell in love with me. He had a job as a native doctor. At that time, like you right now, I didn’t understand. To my way of thinking, only a girl could satisfy a man’s desire. But when I got to know him, he told me about many things. Eventually, he explained to me that a man can satisfy his desire with another man. We became lovers, until he was transferred. After he left, I did with others what he had done with me. I was attracted to handsome boys, and in the end found a good friend, whom I had to leave when I came here. It was the same with my friends. Many of them liked doing it this way. But beforehand, I never imagined that they would do so.”

“How does one satisfy one’s desire?” I asked him with a smile.

He answered not a word, but began kissing my cheeks, while his hands caressed my body. At that point I could no longer control my desire, so I forgot myself and responded with kisses of my own.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for for so long,” I said to myself. Then gradually he took hold of my thigh, and inch by inch lifted up my sarung, till finally his hand touched my….

“It seems you like me, isn’t it so, Little Brother?” he said with a smile, and kissed me again. By this time my desire had become indescribable. If I hadn’t struggled to resist with all my might, I would certainly have bitten his lips as hard as I could. And because he too could no longer control his desire, he slowly laid his body down on my chest.

“This is what I’ve wanted for so long,” he said, as with trembling body he climbed on top of me.

So it was that finally he satisfied his desire on my chest. Afterwards, he slipped off me while kissing my cheeks without stopping for a minute. … Then he satisfied my desire with his hand. “Is this how it feels?” I asked myself, once my desire had been satisfied. But although it had been satisfied, it would be aroused again later.

“Do you want to go to sleep?” he said.

“Yes,” I answered. “I’m really tired from all that walking.”

“Very well,” he answered. Then he held my hand and said, “You won’t forget me, will you, Little Brother? When classes start again, come to me. After all, your school is quite close to mine. You will, won’t you? I’ll be waiting for you behind my school.”

“No,” I replied. “I’m afraid you’ll be ashamed to be friends with a boy from another [lower-status] school.”

“Not at all,” he replied. “Nothing like that ever entered my mind. Let’s make ourselves a promise now. You’ll never forget me, and I’ll never forget you. Let the moon now shining on you be our witness.” [Then he sang:]

May The One God be praised on high
The quill, the ink are paired together
We two have made a promise, you and I,
The moon be our witness, forever

So I replied:

Leaves fall into the river bright
Even on coral, do not hesitate
Composing pantun is your delight
But we must sleep, for it is late

Postcard showing an Indonesian boy. East Java.


  1. Benedict R. O'G. Anderson, "First Love: The Opening of Soetjipto's Djalan Sampoerna", in Indonesia, Vol. 82 (October 2006), pp. 42 and 73.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alun-alun

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